My Encounter With So-Called "god"

by Anthony

Dear Lois,

I am a current member of a UPC church. I have been in the church since I was ten, 36 years. In that time I have been a pastor for ten years and youth pastor for four years. When I was 33 I went through a divorce with a cheating spouse. Since then I have been in the church and at times involved to a ministry level but never official ministry in any way. As you know, there is no system for restoration to ministry in the UPC, only the cold shoulder and shunning of ministers who struggle with life's difficulties, even those who are blameless in a situation.

Despite this lack of recognition or official status which never meant that much to me, I have tried to be faithful and loyal to God and involved in serving him. I spent the last nine years associated with a UPC local church, gradually rising to the level of an elder in the church. About a year ago I made a life changing decision and filed for divorce from my wife because of the eleven year abuse of my children and myself. Since then my children have come back to me and I donít regret the decision because my children didnít deserve the abuse and I need them to be a priority. I have since had to deal with the fact that much of the abuse is my responsibility because I didnít stop it.

After I filed for divorce most of the friends that I had in the church, which after nine years were many, shunned me and began to criticize and even accuse me of things. To say the least, this was hurtful and damaging. I eventually after a while left and went to another church to distance myself from the hatefulness and hurt on the advice of my parents.

I had been very good friends with the pastor of my former church for about 20 years. When I came to the church nine years ago I asked for acceptance and made a promise to help and never hurt the pastor or the church. I kept this promise. It is one of the reasons I felt it was important to separate myself in the midst of the turmoil.

When I went to see the pastor to leave he attacked me and lost his temper and made ugly accusations. I was shocked he had never acted this way to me personally although I knew of his behavior in this way toward others. After I left he lied to me a couple of times and that felt like betrayal to me. Of course he also lied about me to others so there was no big surprise now. He is always ok with anyone until they donít do what he wants or what he says. One minister I am very close to even said that he felt the former pastor has a god complex and expressed to him that he was the only one that could save me from myself. This behavior does not take into account all of the times my family was shunned and left out of things because of the behavior of my former wife, and the pastors wife even talked about separating yourself from people because of their behavior in public a few times. The ladies involved knew she was talking about my spouse at that time.

Needless to say the accusations and rude behavior continued and got so bad that this former pastor even tried to involve my parents and wrote a letter of accusation trying to turn them against their own son. This did not work, but did cause much anguish for me in my relationship with family. I actually had to have my attorney write a letter and on threat of a lawsuit demand this man leave me alone and stop talking about me in public. Most of the talk, at least the public part, stopped then. But the innuendoes and shunning and mean nasty looks in public didnít.

That chapter of my life has now ended but the rude behavior of these people hasnít. My counselor during all this helped me understand that these people never really were my friends and my life is better off without them. That is hard for me because I loved them very much, but is best in light of their behavior.

I am writing and sharing this part of my life to help anyone who encounters this kind of leadership in a church, UPC or not. The Bible is clear that the pastor of a church is the undershepherd to Christ the chief shepherd. He should lead the sheep in humility and love. Not drive the sheep with a rod of iron. In my 36 years in church, in most all UPC I have encountered these hardhearted men who take too much on themselves and hurt the flock.

My prayer is that somehow hearing my story will help someone heal and know that God loves them no matter how people treat them. A clear understanding of the frailty of humanity would help pastors understand how they should view themselves and view others. Obviously the hurts didnít drive me out of the church because I am strong in the Lord and had a few friends who hung in there with me and cared about me in spite of the encouragement of leadership to shun and be hurtful. My prayer is that the reader of my words will remember Jesus is God, not people, and stay close to him and not let wrong headed leaders and control freak men drive them away from God.

Thank you for allowing me to share.


Posted July 27, 2006

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